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Friday, July 21, 2006

Hello, My Name is...

One of the most common (and oftentimes pressing) matters a new author faces is the question of whether or not to use a pseudonym. Does she want to use her real name?

Or perhaps something cute and snappy?

Or perhaps sweet and lyrical?

This is not a trivial matter, as it turns out. There are so many factors to consider, even for an unpublished author. And if the author is published, things get even more complicated.

There are no doubt many reasons why a writer might consider taking a pseudonym. An unpublished writer may wish to keep her writing private from neighbors, friends, even family (not to mention psycho stalkers just released from prison). She may work in a field like teaching or law where she cannot afford to associate her real name with certain genres. She may want to purchase a url and set up a website before she's sold her first book. A sidenote: The process of building name recognition is slow and tedious but well worth an unpublished writer's time. Some of the most successful new author launches I've seen were by writers who had established a name for themselves before selling.

A published author may be looking to move into a new direction with her writing and wouldn't want to confuse readers, like JD Robb/Nora Roberts. Or perhaps she's suffered poor sales and is looking to make a fresh start. Those things happen.

Therefore, the first question is: Do I need a pseudonym? If the above apply, then the answer is most likely "yes".

Secondly, how does one choose?

This is the fun part! I know when I was a little girl, I often wondered what it might be like if I could have chosen my own name. Originally, I started writing historical romance, therefore, I wanted a pseudonym that sounded "historical", something that fit the time frame I wrote in. I googled the words "Names" and "Elizabethan" and found lots of stuff. After much deliberating, I picked.

Then I went and changed genres. I had decided to start writing sassy contemporaries and my historical name (Devon) just didn't fit. So, it was back to the baby name sites for me. I knew I wanted to use my father's name as a surname, since he'd died when I was young. So I had my last name picked out. I just needed a first name.

Again, I struggled to make a choice. How would I balance the syllables in the first and last names? How about the "hard" sounds versus soft ones? Allan was my chosen last name. Would my first be Courtney? Paige? Sydney? I liked Sydney, but felt it needed something. A middle name. Laine. Voila. I had a penname.

And then I changed genres AGAIN.

Have you gotten the impression that I'm a ADHD author? Because I am. I don't deny it. LOL

Back to the drawing board again. Although this time it was much easier to choose. I had a first name in mind already, a name that was sexy--Tawny. My last name was again chosen from my family. And thus, Tawny Taylor was born.

It's odd, but now that I "live" my Tawny persona all day online and on the weekends when I'm working at the bookstore, I've become more comfortable with that name than my given name. It's strange but true.

For those looking for a penname, I recommend the following site: It has the absolute best search engine. You can search by sex, letter, syllables, nationality...there are a gob of options. And there are millions of names to choose from.

One final suggestion--I strongly recommend a writer do a google of their chosen name, and also check Amazon for other authors using the same or similar names. There is no law against having an indentical name (or one very similar) to another author, however, it could work against you, especially if that author is popular.

Good luck! And I welcome anyone out there to share their penname experiences. How'd you choose?

posted by Tawny Taylor at 8:50 AM |


Commented by Blogger Jen:

Oh this is so true! I was going to pick a pen name and I ran into trouble with the whole domain name thing. My maiden name .com-taken. All the other names I came up with .com--taken. I gave up and put my real name in. Walah!
Then I wrote a series of three erotic short stories. I NEEDED a pen name. My mother would DIE if she read my erotic stuff. So, I came up with first, middle with land tacked on. Jennifer Leeland was born. LOL.
Luckily, so far it's worked. I had no idea you had a historical name.

11:19 AM 
Commented by Blogger Tawny Taylor:

Oh yes, I have a historical name. I'm a woman of MANY secrets ;-)

Seriously, I feel your pain. Choosing the right pseudonym is tough!

2:17 PM 
Commented by Blogger Nonny:

I'm using a pen name because I hate my legal name (Heidi Elizabeth Smith). I'm not entirely sure what I'll change it to, because there's some complications with taking my fiance's last name. (As he has the same issue with his legal name, too, but isn't sure if he wants to deal with the familial firestorm for changing it... and I hate his real last name.)

I ended up using a pen name a came up with several years ago -- Elisabeth Drake. The "s" causes a bit of confusion, but I loathe and despise it with a "z," so I don't really care. And Drake ... well, dragons, which are near and dear to my heart, and give a bit more "paranormal" feel, IMO.

Given most of my work is fantasy or paranormal, I'm trying to restrain the temptation to do multiple pseuds, but I know it would not be a good idea at this stage. Even if they are shiny. ;)

9:43 AM 

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